31 August 2006

BlogDay 2006

I recently read that Technorati tracked its 50 millionth blog and there’s an incredible number of new electronic journal started every day.

That can be a big and scary thing…which is why BlogDay is such a great idea.

According to
BlogDay.org (BlogDay’s official home), BlogDay began in the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to exploring the blogosphere and discover and recommend, to their readers, other authors and electronic journals.

Thanks so much to
Paz and Ellie for letting me know about this great day.

Picking five blogs to spotlight was difficult—not that I couldn’t find new-to-me blogs, but to narrow things down. I also tried my best to not have an overwhelming number of foodblogs on the list. I was good. Only two of my five are food bloggers. You may be familiar with them already (I always assume I’m the last to find out about cool and neat things), but if not, I hope you have a chance to visit these sites.

The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
For those of you who like SF, this one’s for you. Written by Andrew Wheeler, Senior Editor of the (US) Science Fiction Book Club, he mixes work (all those books that cross his desk) with life (his kids (Thing One and Thing Two)) and interesting things he finds on the web…check out his book-a-day posts.

Yes, I’m a Coronation Street fan. And yes, it’s so tempting to find out what will be appearing on my TV in eight or 10 months. I like this Corrie site because it’s not all spoilers—there are interesting bits on the actors (past and present) along with weird little bits of Weatherfield-related news.

Food Maven
Okay, we all love Rachel and her Coconut and Lime blog. But her new blog, Food Maven, is more than recipes…it’s funny, conversational and lets more of this wonderful blogger’s personality shine through.

Polite Dissent
What happens when you have a doctor review comic books and medical television shows? Well…you get a very educated look at all that medical mumbo jumbo thrown in as plot points. It appeals to the nit-picky side of me…check out his episode-by-episode House break-downs.

Sugar Delirium
This is a new favourite of mine. Veuve Cliquot is a funny, genuine person who blogs about life from a foodie point of view…did I mention she’s trying to kick the sugar habit? I personally love reading her posts about dating…



29 August 2006

Blog Day 2006 is two days away

This post's title pretty much says it all.

31 August 2006 is Blog Day--a day where new-to-us blogs are spotlighted on blogs all over the world.

I'd insert a link to the official web site, but it seems to be down right now. Instead, here's a link to Paz's post about the event: BlogDay 2006 is coming soon!

I'm planning on participating...am just getting all those little duckies in a row...


27 August 2006

Summer cold

It was bound to happen.

It still doesn't mean that I like it.

With all the running around I do, combined with the sort-of sudden temperature drop, pollen (aka plant sex) and pressures from this, that and the other...I caught...something.


My nose is stuffy, my throat hurts, my ear aches, my body is stiff.

SOME people think it's my body's attempt to tell me to slow down and do nothing and just recharge. DO NOTHING? I don't "do nothing"...okay...I do...but when I say I'm doing nothing, that means I'm reading, writing, doing laundry, baking a cake, cleaning...homebody stuff. Apparently, this definition of "do nothing" is erroneous and what do nothing really means is sleep and/or watch TV/DVDs.


There a number of non-pharma things I do to make life more bearable when I've caught a cold or something...one of them is drastically increase my intake of capsaicine, garlic and onions. Yes, that means copious amounts of spicey-hot foods that could be classified as a dangerous weapon in some jurisdictions.

The night that I finally admitted that things weren't right, I went to a local wing and rib place and ordered double-sauced wings: suicide and something they called "hotter than Hell"...well, they didn't do much for me--a slight tingle at best...nowhere near the eye-watering, nose-dripping lip numbness I needed.

TFE, on the other hand, tried the felt all warm and tingly.

I don't know what I was expecting...okay, I was hoping for a pseudo-surreal experience like Homer and the Guatemalan Insanity Pepper, but this definitely wasn't it...

When I was in secondary school there used to be this amazing "create your own" sandwich shop--lots of different meats, toppings, sauces and breads. I perfected my own "hotter than Hell" sandwich, when combined with a purely medicinal Nanaimo bar, always made me feel better. That sandwich was HUGE--a combination of chicken, beef, cheddar, lettuce, onions, pickles, jalepenos peppers, hot peppers, horseradish, dijon mustard, barbecue sauce and chilli sauce on an onion bun--I could only eat a quarter of it at a time, but it always made the nasty effects of any cold or flu go away.

Unfortunately that shop no longer exists (the owners sold it and the new owners had a string of bad luck and then ran it into the ground).

One of our gourmet shops also has a build-your-own-sandwich counter. It's nowhere as wondrous as the old shop, but you do the best with what you have, right? What you see is an attempt at recreating my medicinal sandwich...nowhere near as potent, but there were some redeeming factors: fresh brown bread, rare roast beef, cheddar, lettuce, onions, pickles, horseradish, grain mustard, sundried tomatoes and a proprietary secret mix called "the bomb." If my old sandwich was a "10" in spicey heat, this one was a "five"...a tasty five, but still a five. I knew this in advance, so I picked up some Death Rain Habanero potato chips...which brought the meal up to a seven.

Unfortunately, one important ingredient to this feel better with food journey was missing.

No Nanaimo bar.

I think that's why I still feel yucchy.



25 August 2006

La Festa al Fresco: Beetroot hummus

Our darling Cream Puff invited me to a late summer feast, co-hosted by Lis of Mia Cucina.

La Festa al Fresco (I love saying that--horrid accent et al) celebrates the end of summer with a bloggy potluck with all guests (and crashers) supplying just one dish that features one fresh ingredient.

I must admit that I find potlucks, at once, liberating and frightening. Liberating because I'm not the one soley in charge of feeding the ravenous hordes (okay, yes, I do like cooking for a crowd, but still). Frightening because there's a deep-down worry that everyone will bring the same dish, or platters of spray-cheezed crackers...or worse, everyone brings platters of spray-cheezed crackers...yeah, when I organize pot lucks (or cookie exchanges), it's a pretty organized event with limits as to the numbers of variations on a theme...

I don't expect this group to provide a plethora of the foresaid dreaded platter...unless of course, people brought home-made or artisinal cheese served on freshly baked crackers or melba toasts...now THAT would be good.

So, with invitation in hand, I thought about what could I possibly bring. I received the invitation at the same time I was perusing
Easy Summer Food for Canada Eats and I found what I believe to be a really good candidate for this soiree: Beetroot Hummus.

When I saw the gorgeous photo in the book, I knew I had to make it: a soft mound of puce-coloured loveliness. How could I not try it?

This recipe was a pleasant surprise for me. I fully admit to not liking boiled beetroot--too many childhood memories of my parents' garden and the mass of purpley-red tuberous veg they harvested each year. In recent years I've tried it roasted and grilled and I much prefer it (well, actually the golden ones) prepared that way.

It is ludicrously easy to make and the only time I had to turn on the stove was to cook the beets. The dip has a nice, slightly firm texture and hides a very distinctive bite (thanks to the addition of horseradish). The recipe came with a second recipe for pan-grilled bread. I decided against making the bread and opted to serve it with cucumber slices. I thought the two paired very well--clean, crisp and cooling veg with the creamy and slightly hot dip.

I took the dip to the office, where I knew beetroot lovers existed. A goodly number of people gravitated towards my filing cabinet (aka "the usual place")--those who like and dislike beets came out of the woodwork. Even those of us who aren't enamoured with the veg kept going back for more. I think that says it all.

Beetroot Hummus, from Easy Summer Food

Serves 6

250g cooked and peeled beetroot (about two), drained and cut into chunks
25g fresh breadcrumbs (or 50g dried)
1 fat clove garlic, crushed
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp grated horseradish
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste

  • Puree all ingredients, except for salt and pepper, until smooth. Season to taste.
  • Serve with a combination of crudite, grilled pitas or flatbread or chips.
  • Pressure-cooking the beetroot makes for a quick and easy way of preparing the veg. If you really don't want to boil or pressure cook them, I suppose you could use canned beets, but be sure to rinse off the liquid.
  • I used bottled, grated horseradish, but squeezed out the extra juice.



23 August 2006

Canada Eats: Easy Summer Food

Another of my cookery book reviews is posted on Canada Eats. This month it's Easy Summer Food: Simple Recipes for Sunny Days by Julz Beresford, Maxine Clark, Clare Ferguson, Silvana Franco, Elsa Petersen-Schepelern, Louise Pickford, Fran Warde, and Lesley Waters.

Here's the link: http://www.canada-eats.com/canada_eats/2006/08/easy_summer_foo.html


21 August 2006

Me and my tarty ways

I declared 2005 as the "Year of the Tart" to learn how to make pastry and improve my pie-making skills. I made lots of pies--savoury and sweet ones, double- and single-crusted...most of them were quite edible. Even though most of those pies were made with homemade crusts, I did make some with store-bought puff pastry.

One of my favourite puff pastry tarts is a very simple, rustic combination of peaches and blueberries. Since this is one of the last weeks (if not the last week) for Ontario blueberries, and Ontario peaches are becoming plentiful, this is probably one of the best times to make this dessert.

But don't think that this is a seasonal dish, only to be made when trees and bushes are prime with sweet offerings. Despite the granite-like flesh of imported peaches piled at the grocer's and the frozen blue pellets in the freezer, I enjoy making (and eating) this tart all year round, including in mid-winter. If you decide to make it when fruits are out-of-season, simply add more sugar and oomph up the spicing.

I've changed my usual spicing to take advantage of vanilla, my 2006 theme. Normally, I'd add half a teaspoon of powdered ginger and a good splash of vanilla extract to the fruit, but this version omits the ginger and substitutes split vanilla pods for the extract. You can still use ginger (it is a really nice addition in cooler weather), but I rather like this vanillaed version that has it's own sweet complexity.

I must warn you right now. This is one of my "non-recipes" but I did try to write down everything I do. This is basically one of those dishes that you put a handful of that, a teaspoon of this, give it a taste, add more of this and a bit of that.... It is very flexible--you can replace peaches with apples or pears or a combination and you could put in any sort of berry you like.

Blueberry-peach tart
1 10"x10" sheet of frozen puff pastry
500 g peeled, pitted and sliced peaches (approximately 6)
200g blueberries
3 tbsp brown sugar (packed)
2 tbsp white sugar
1 dspn cornflour
1 vanilla pod

  • Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking tray with parchment paper
  • In a bowl, mix together peaches, blueberries, sugars and cornflour. Set aside.
  • Roll out the pastry on a floured surface--you don't want it too thin, it should just increase it's area by a couple of inches. Place the pastry on the lined baking sheet.
  • Split the vanilla pod into two and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a very sharp knife. Mix the seeds with the fruit. Set aside the pod.
  • Tip the fruit onto the centre of of the pastry. Pull up the sides and start crimping. What you want to do is build a strong wall or a dam. When the fruit bakes, liquid will be released and the pasty will keep it in.
  • Dot the fruit with little blobs of butter and then lay the vanilla pods over the fruit.
  • Bake at 400F for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temp to 375F and bake until the crust is golden brown -- roughly 20 minutes.
  • Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of vanilla ice cream.

  • If you are stuck with winter peaches or your fruit isn't as ripe as you'd like, simply add a bit more sugar.
  • This recipe works well with both fresh and frozen blueberries--use whatever is easiest.
  • And yes, that's one dessertspoon (two teaspoons) of cornflour (cornstarch).


19 August 2006

A conversation about cracked wheat

Me: "Mum, what's cracked wheat? You made that pudding with it."

Mum: "Oh! Cracked wheat is cracked wheat."

Me: "Yes, but what is it?"

Mum: "Cracked wheat is wheat that is cracked."

Me: "So you buy it cracked."

Mum: "Yes. It is very high in fibre."

Me: "Is it Cream of Wheat?"

Mum: "No. Cracked wheat is not Cream of Wheat. Cracked wheat is cracked wheat."

Me: "I see. So where do you buy it?"

Mum: "In the bulk food store. Next to the broken rice."

Me: "The broken rice?"

Mum:"Yes. You know. The rice that is broken..."


17 August 2006

What would I do without...

...my favourite Cream Puff?

Ivonne is a wonderful person, a great friend and an amazing foodblogger.

Her grand bit of espace is one of my favourite haunts. She always amazes me with what she makes and the food always looks so good. I think she's one of the best inspirations around for the home cook.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting her in person. All I have to say is that she is as fun and lovely in real life as she is in pixels. I think she embodies what it means to be a foodblogger: sweet, generous and always willing to teach and learn from her little oopsies.

Back in June she made a
coffee cake that I kept dreaming about...really. It was love at first site. Rarely have I been that obsessed about food. I wanted to try the recipe immediately...but I was weaning myself off of the Cooking by Proxy Series and still wasnt' sure if I could return to the kitchen.

But as soon as I did....

In July, when I was feeling comfortable standing again, I went back to her Triple Berry Coffee Cake recipe and turned them in to muffins (or little coffee cakes). They were absolutely amazing. So amazing that people at work asked me for the recipe. I happily gave them Ivonne's URL.

I hadn't the time to post this feeble tribute to one of our great foodbloggers until now. And she has no clue about it (tee hee). She'll probably blush. She's a blushy type :)



15 August 2006

Feast: Bloggy Brunch

On Sunday I drove into Toronto to see Spamalot again. I loved it so much the first time, that I refused to sell my subscription ticket (yeah, that was me on the phone during intermission last month leaving a highly excited message on my friend's voicemail begging her to NOT sell my ticket...and good thing I called because someone asked her the next day if it was still available...I know, I know, I'm selfish and should have let someone else see the show, since it's closing in less than a month...but it's so rare for me to be so enthusiastic about a Mirvish offering). It was just as good the second time and I'm still finding confetti in my purse...Zeus is also finding the papery bits...especially the shiny ones...he's not sure what to do with them.

Anyway, I thought it would be a good opportunity for another bloggy meal. This time my brunchy companion was Lea of Canada Eats. This new online food magazine has the feel of a blog. And, like all foodblogs I know of, it's about a love of food and new edible experiences.

Lea is an absolute sweetheart. She's bright, articulate and intelligent. Plus (most importantly), she put up with my pre-caffinated, I-got-up-far-too-early-to-drive-to-TO-so-I-could-get-a-free-parking-spot-at-my-friend's-apartment-before-all-the-Taste of the Danforth-diners-took-all-the-parking babblings. We talked about this and that, places we've been to, things we've read, Canada Eats, and of course food and the politics of foodblogging.

We met at Over Easy (yes, I look for any and every excuse to go there). I had the full English (I love everything about it, but especially the toasted malt bread) (above, left). Lea had a salad with her eggs florentine (above, right). It was all good.


13 August 2006

Feast: Spamalot

A few weeks ago (okay, it was more like a month ago), TFE and I headed into Toronto for a day to ourselves. We had EXCELLENT seats for Spamalot -- quite possibly the best Mirvish-sponsored production I've seen in six or seven years...so much better than re-hashed Andrew Lloyd Webber and that fiasco that was Lord of the Rings.

Anyway, we decided to have brunch at TFE's spot of choice,

My darling dearest had a big breakfasty thingie (left) and I had eggs benedict with brie and mushrooms (right). I must admit that I wasn't impressed. It all looked hugely wonderful...and huge, but this was an instance where the kitchen spent more time making things look appetising as oppose to tasty (the poached egg might as well have been a boiled egg and instead of fresh mushrooms that were sauteed (or even raw), the plate boasted canned, cold and waterlogged mushrooms). I won't be going back again.

Prior to heading out we decided to partake in
Summerlicious, an annual (this is the third year) restaurant festival where some of the city's better restaurants offer very reasonable three-course, prix fixes. After perusing the menues, we decided to sup at Urban:

Yummy! It totally made up for Cora's. For starters, TFE had the soup (which he didn't let me photograph) and I had the goat cheese and grilled portobello mushroom phyllo tart, mixed greens with cherry tomatoes, roast fig jam and chervil oil (top). Our mains were a grilled beef striploin with sweet potato mash, red wine jus and veg (middle, left (mine)) and grilled baby back ribs Crown Royal molasses sauce, toasted pinenut and parsley rice with baked beans (middle, right (his)). For dessert, I got an extra-thick crusted creme brulee (whee!!) and TFE had the mixed berry and apple Crumble served with Devonshire custard.

I must admit the dinner entertainment was unintentionally supplied by the next table--the tragically beautiful people who insisted on wearing oversized sunglasses indoors and looked down their noses at those of us who were...shall we say...country bumpkins. You see, they were stylish, beautiful and rich and had very, very hard lives: She (the stick insect) cut her very stylish, beautiful and somewhat overpriced burger into quarters and ate only one or two pieces (I assume because eating the rest would be far too much...even though she could down the fries without a problem) was forcing herself to get married in Sonoma because "that's what has to be done" and to honeymoon in some private island in the Caribbean because "that's what has to be done." Her dining companion (not her fiance) was a loud talking name dropper who apparently knows Bruce Springsteen's therapist, among other degrees of separation from other Hollywood types. Every time the name dropper dropped a name, his volume would go up--quite hillarious, really. He was concerned for his friend because she was so upset about this huge wedding:
"Why are you getting married to him? Do you have to?"
"Well of course I have to. I need his money so I can live...otherwise I would stay single if I could afford it."

Yeah...that's going to be a marriage that lasts.



10 August 2006

Happiness is...

Cracked wheat pudding.

My mum hadn't made this for a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very long time. And then this week she decided to make some. I'm not not going to ask why, I'm just happy there was some left for me :)

I really don't know what it's made of, but it can be adequately duplicated with cream of wheat, spiced with cardamom and sugar, and then garnished raisins with toasted cashews.

Yummy yummy yummy...



08 August 2006

Peachy keen

If I had been thinking clearly last week (during that wretched heat) I would have made this sooner.

Peach ice cream.

I wish I could say that I used fresh peaches, but I didn't. All the peaches I found at the shops were too firm and didn't smell peachy enough. Yes, my name is Jasmine, and I'm a peach sniffer.

I wound up pureeing some canned peaches to add to the brine (the same recipe as I used for the
strawberry ice cream a few weeks ago), except instead of strawberries I used peaches and lessened the sugar by about 50g. I also added some coursely chopped peaches at the end of the churning cycle for an extra bit of peachiness.

At some point I'll figure out the proportions for either one or one-and-a-half litres, but until then, I'll have fruity custards in my fridge--an arduous price to pay, ...mind you...the custards don't last that long...they tend to mysteriously disappear...like this ice cream.



06 August 2006

Long Weekend Brunch

It's the long weekend. Simcoe Day (to some) is tomorrow. Most people don't really know (or care), but he is credited for a number of things we take for granted..

John Graves Simcoe introduced a number of things to Upper Canada, including British institutions such as courts, trial by jury and English Common Law. One of his most impressive and important acts was the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada--roughly a quarter-century before it was abolished through the British Empire.

Anyway, the August long weekend is a pretty relaxed affair. People just toodle about, visit friends and/or family or just retreat to the cottage. In Toronto, Caribana has taken hold (I think the hot and sunny climate we had last week was just getting people in the mood).

Anyway, today was a perfect day for brunch--a great big mug of tea to go with a plate full of cheesy eggs with mushrooms, onions and herbs, streaky bacon, and (of course) gingerbread waffles with ginger marmalade and butter.


03 August 2006

File another under "common sense is no longer common"

I saw this and just blinked...

I know that not everyone knows how to boil an egg. But still...

I don't want to believe that we've gotten to the point that there may be a market for eggs that tell you when they are boiled to your liking.

  • How much extra are people going to have to pay for this wondrous help?
  • Given the porous nature of shells, how safe are the inks? Really?


Part of me believes that designers developed these (and other products) for themselves. Then, in hopes of not being seen as lazy and in need of instant gratification, they pay consultants for ego stroking...by the time the story gets to the newspaper, it's full-out (but made-up) problem and isn't this company so wonderful for solving it?

Here's a favourite line from the article:

“I get so frustrated if I get the timing wrong and the egg is too hard to dip my toasted soldiers in. My design solves this problem.”

This was said by a 22-year old university student who invented an egg boiler.

Poor thing...yolks not squidgy enough and so frustrated...

Maybe I should congratulate him for identifying a major problem faced by millions and millions...okay...maybe not millions...maybe just one.

Here's a tip: Save yourself the money and buy a couple of dozen eggs and either bring in a friend who knows how to boil an egg to teach you or just figure it out on your own...it's not that difficult.


01 August 2006

Stress Release

Some girls eat.
Some girls work out.
Some girls get really bitchy.
Some girls drink.
Some girls go on vacation.

What did this girl do when she was oh, so very stressed?

This girl shopped.

This girl picked up her new toy yesterday.
This girl will be paying it off until 2010.